In 1983 the London Stock Exchange (LSE) settled an anti-trust case with Margaret Thatcher’s government. This led to wide ranging changes for the city, regulators and the LSE. These changes increased the level of market activity and altered the structure of the financial market forever. This was known colloquially as ‘Big Bang’.
One of the consequences for the LSE was the amount of change they had to accommodate and the number of projects they had to deliver over a challenging timescale. IT projects made up a significant proportion of the workload. In addition, many of the changes would impact upon the settlement system, Talisman. It needed to stay 99.9% operational throughout the life of the programme.
The Council of the Stock Exchange, historically, had little trust in the delivery capability of the in-house IT resources. The challenge was how to manage the execution risk of such a large programme of work. There were diverse projects, and new project managers. Competition for resource was fierce and we still had to keep the business up and running. Phew!
I worked for the consultancy that was invited in to monitor the programme on behalf of the LSE Council. My role was to ensure all the Settlement projects were delivered whilst keeping Talisman in operation. I was both excited and fearful at the same time.
There was no way that such a large workload could be accomplished in an ad hoc manner. Projects had to be planned and budgeted in such a way that data could be easily aggregated to make key management decisions. Scheduling of limited but key resources (such as lawyers, regulators & database administrators etc.) needed to be coordinated across projects to prevent them from being bottlenecks. Resource needed to be moved between projects appropriately to optimise overall delivery. Most of all, project reporting had to reflect reality to facilitate effective senior management decision-making.
The LSE already had a strong change management function to support Talisman (40 staff). Around this we built a planning department (20 strong) to ensure all plans and budgets were produced to a consistent standard and in such a way that data could be aggregated across projects. In addition we had a 4 man QA department that introduced project governance, a standard project lifecycle, standards and procedures. It also looked to identify systemic issues with delivery and provide systemic solutions. We also had the data administration department because; well someone had to, and scheduling their resource effectively was a key issue.
It wasn’t easy and it was full on all the way. Mistakes were made, acknowledged and corrected. I wouldn’t say it was like a well-oiled machine but we were a great team. Our structured approach helped us to deal with everything that was thrown at us..
There is no doubt that genuine change was delivered. The rest, as they say, is history. It was one hell of a party in 1986. The City went crazy and so did I.